Armed with this knowledge of the area, I forced myself to look at the cold hard facts surrounding the conflict, applying the same logic I have for other conflicts or struggles for independence, and take into account my hesitation towards anything Russian due to growing up in the Cold-War / anti-Soviet 80's. In the spirit of fair journalism, I am going to address some questions regarding the situation.
1. Is Russia's response adequate?
2. Is Georgia the actual aggressor?
3. What claim to autonomy do these geographical regions actually have?
Let me start by answering the the questions in reverse order.
3. The country of Georgia houses a couple of autonomous regions, existing in de facto independence from the Georgian government since the civil war of 1992-1993. During this war, the worst fighting took place in the Abkhazia region (in the Northwest region of the country). During this conflict, upwards of 200,000 ethnic Georgians were victims of genocide at the hands of the Abkhaz peoples and the Russian military forces remaining in the area. The Ossetian peoples of Central Georgia also declared de facto independence from the central government, intending to join with North Ossetia (which is part of Russia proper). The territories have acted autonomously, with numerous attempts by Georgian officials to extend autonomy under Georgian unity (such as statehood / confederation). The autonomous regions have refused, demanding their own independence.
By natural law, one would conclude that the cessation of violence after the civil war indicated a region of territorial delineation. That is, the de facto autonomy was recognized by both sides - both of which should be party to continued peaceful existence as sovereign territories as decided by the civil war. This is the very basis for the Declaration of Independence - casting off one form of government to create one better suited to the people, as they so desire. The territory lines of Georgia are little more than old Soviet map lines, but did nothing regarding the actual make-up of the region. Therefore, both regions have a legitimate claim to call for independence from Georgia - just as do the Palestinians have a legitimate claim to autonomy, as do the Kosovians, as do the Sioux. What is expected is fair and legal recognition of their claim.
Is it dangerous to draw map lines based on ethnicity? Indeed. But if it is necessary to establish areas of greater autonomy with a loose confederation in order to maintain peace throughout the world, then by all means, so be it.
2. The current conflict is a case of he-said / she-said. Who fired the first shot? Who started the war? If separatist forces in the autonomous regions had been committing acts of aggression towards civilians or government forces of Georgia, then Georgian forces are well within their means to bring peace and order to a region recognized as their own territory. However, reports would indicate a widely unreported series of events in which Georgian forces pushed their forces towards the South Ossetian capitol of Tskhinvali where they then began a bombardment of the civilian population. If this is, in fact, the case, I firmly believe that the Georgian government was out of line. It is one thing to send troops into the city and maintain martial law under constitutional powers, ensuring peace and rule of law. However, attacking civilian populations of another ethnicity is a crime.
3. If Georgia is, in fact, the aggressor against the Ossetian people, then Russia is absolved of my previous harsh criticism. Russia is performing the task of ensuring freedom, and ensuring that genocide is no longer a tool of war.
It is the policy of the US to ensure that the enemy is incapacitated when we enter a conflict. We ensure a swift victory and unconditional cessation of attacks against our forces and civilians. This is the tactic the Russians are employing, saving the US the trouble of having to intervene.
However, it was not long ago that Soviet forces used this same tactic to erect the iron curtain around these very same people... so it is with a cautious hand that I endorse such actions by the Russians.
Is there a cold war bias? Indeed. I feel it, as does the rest of the world. It comes in a time when Russia is still defiant, and interested in asserting their strength on Europe in the form of Energy, and the West in the form of alliances (with Iran, Syria, etc). As much as the United States is the sleeping giant, the
It is this fact that is causing the world community to call for Russia to act with reserve.
Depending on the outcome of Russia's actions, we may see a Russia with greater influence in the region as a partner with the US in peacekeeping throughout the world... or we may see a new foe to the United States in a struggle to maintain superiority in influence around the globe.
So I ask now, what is the role of the US in defending an ally? What is the role of any super power in defending against genocide? And is there room for two super powers doing good on the world stage?